"They completely lose control." Parents should not buy underage teens booze.

I thought I was the only teen in the world whose parents refused to buy her alcohol.

And to be fair, I probably was one of the few kids in Queensland who had parents that didn’t supply them with booze.

Brisbane in the early 2000’s was a rat’s nest of house parties. Before we all learnt to sneak into clubs underage, we terrorised suburban backyards with an onslaught of kitten heels and Lynx Africa and two-tone hairstyles.

Cranky parents would be delegated to the veranda to get pissed with the other cranky parents, shooed away with a furious hiss should they dare, dare talk to someone at the party.

There were bathtubs full of ice and floating stubbies of XXXX, laundry tubs with six-packs of alcopops, tables strewn with bottles of Kirks Lemonade, and the sickly sweet smell of Bundy Rum and coke lingering from an unknown source.

Drinking at a party, for a teen, gave everything an adult 'edge'.

Parents were there, 'supervising'.

But their role was generally to drink enough red wine that by midnight, someone's mum was pulling embarrassing moves on the dance floor, whilst someone's dad was bellowing for the lads to start picking up beer cans and putting them in the bin.

And to go home. Now.

House parties were our earliest experience of mixing booze and boys; and were a veritable melting pot of sloppy, 20 minute pash sessions, awkward jokes, and being thrown under the bus by your best friend who spilled the beans about your crush on Tom only because she wanted to hook up with Tom's best friend Jacko.

Perilous, perilous times.

The crutch that held it all up was the booze.

It was critical: it established the cool parties from the lame. It separated the rookies from the seasoned players (easily deciphered by what hour you would vomit into the potplant by), and acted as a sieve to filter out the brave from the timid, the strong from the weak, the mature from the young.

Alcohol gave the whole situation an adult edge. Even if the actual adults were watching on from the deck above.

But it seems that's all about to change.

In an article from the Sydney Morning Herald, youth drinking levels are dropping dramatically thanks to less and less parents opting to purchase their teen's booze.

"In 2007, 22.4 per cent of underage drinkers sourced their alcohol from parents," says the article.

"By 2013, that number was slashed to 11.8 per cent but parents remained the second-most common source of drinking, only trailing behind friends."

The massive drop of 22.4% to 11.8% of parents willingly buying alcohol for their underage children is an interesting observation, but the fact remains - should they have even been doing it in the first place?

Growing up in Queensland, the approach towards underage drinking was fairly lackadaisical. Whilst my parents were never big drinkers, and never ever advocated underage drinking; the general attitude of our community was it was a 'rite of passage'.


Kids will always drink! They'd say. The only way they'll learn to be responsible is to drink themselves silly.

This approach, combined with the hands-on parenting style of the Baby Boomers, meant that they happily got involved with their teens drinking habits.

For many, the mantra was simple: 'if you're going to drink, I would rather you do it here where you're safe.'

So what did the kids do? They got drunk at home. And somehow, this all made sense.

The same argument would crop up every time there was a party.

"But Mum! Dad! Everyone else's parents are buying them alcohol!"

Indeed, many of my friend's parents did.  Some begrudging, some bemused, they took off to the local Bottle-O to buy a six pack of Bacardi Breezers or Vodka Cruisers for their teens.

Solemnly placing the lurid blue or green or pink drinks in their teen's clammy hands before the party, the parents would issue a stern warning: YOU DON'T NEED TO DRINK THEM ALL.

Invariably, you'd drink them all.

This routine seems to be losing popularity as parents realise that supplying their kids with booze maybe isn't such a good idea. Once upon a time, it would be fair to assume that kids would manage to get booze from somewhere, so it may as well come from them. It gave parents a sense of control over what was undoubtedly a worrying situation.

But, with strict new liquor laws hammering down on public drinking, and (real) ID required at every point of purchase; is it really that easy to procure booze as an underage kid anymore?

Moreover, do they even want it?

In the same article from the SMH, data insights show that the instance of teenage drinking has actually decreased.

"The figures from six different Australian National Drug Strategy Household Surveys showed twice as many 14 to 17-year-olds identified as non-drinkers in 2013 (60 per cent) compared to 2001 (30 per cent)."

It went on to say that the study also showed that only one in 20 adolescents were drinking weekly in 2013, compared with one in five in 2008.

Is it wrong that I feel threatened by this super race of smart, sober teens? Ahem. I mean, good on ya, guys. Nice work.



Is it actually possible, that for the first time in history, parents (and their kids!) are learning lessons from the generation before?

Are parents, who were once vomiting green Midori spew themselves, refusing to buy into the vicious cycle of Aussie drinking?

Or are the kids just under so much pressure from their evil corporate school boards that they don't have time to drunkenly pash their brother's friends behind the shed?

My opinion is this. Parents shouldn't be involved in their teen's drinking habits. It is their duty of care to teach them the realistic - and serious - repercussions of the booze. They need to warn them about losing control, about practicing moderation, and about learning to say no.

Actively going out and buying alcohol sends the wrong message.

Australia has long struggled with an alcohol-dependant society, and it's about time we change it. If we expect these teens to grow up into moderate, respectful adults who don't king hit strangers, or assault women, or get blackout drunk; then we need to teach them early on there is more to socialising than being pissed.

There's more to life than being pissed, too.
Drink wisely: Dr Andrew Rochford introduces DrinkWise 5 Point Plan.

Video by DrinkWise Australia

Hey, a glass of wine with dinner at home? No problem. A beer with Dad at Christmas? Fine. But nudging them along into regular and sustained drinking habits - the very ones we all rail against as adults - seems superfluous.

How about encouraging our teens to learn social habits outside of the realm of binge drinking? You know, talking to each other? Making meaningful connections? Mutual respect, and all that jazz?

Trust me, that sloppy pash behind the shed will still happen, West Coast Cooler or not.

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